Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Another Cambodian Factory Has a Collapse

PHNOM PENH—More than 20 people were injured on Monday when a rest shelter outside a Cambodian garment factory collapsed into a pond, adding to recent worries about safety in the country's garment industry.

A Cambodian rescue team searched Monday for workers after a shelter at a garment factory collapsed in Phnom Penh.

The incident came just a few days after portions of another Cambodian garment factory collapsed, killing three people and injuring several others.

The Cambodian incidents follow several more-deadly accidents in Bangladesh, where more than 1,000 people died in a garment building collapse last month and others have perished in garment factory fires over the past year.

Kuoch Chamreoun, a district chief of Phnom Penh, said Monday's incident occurred around 11:15 a.m., when a concrete and metal shelter where workers can rest and look out over a pond suddenly tumbled into the water, taking with it several workers from the Phnom Penh-area factory.

The cause was unclear. Mr. Chamreoun said 23 workers were injured, including a pregnant woman, with no fatalities. An employee of the company, Sieng Yun, 34, said the pregnant woman was seriously injured, but that the baby was fine.

 Koch Ousphea, chief administrator at the factory, said the facility was operated by Top World Garment (Cambodia) Ltd., which is listed as a Hong Kong company making jeans and trousers, according to the website of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia. "It was an incident we couldn't expect," Mr. Ousphea said, adding that the company was still investigating.

Cambodia has benefited in recent years from rising factory wages in China that have pushed some apparel retailers to look for cheaper places to source their products. But as the country's garment sector has boomed, turning into its biggest export earner, concerns about safety have risen.

Among other problems, workers have reported a series of "mass fainting" incidents in which large numbers of workers have collapsed. Activists say they believe the incidents are caused by heat, bad ventilation and poor nutrition.

"The garment industry has operated for more than 10 years in Cambodia, so the buildings are getting old," increasing the need for tighter inspections, said Kong Athit, secretary general of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, which represents garment workers, including some at Top World. He added that incidents involving structural building issues such as the last two factory accidents were "not common" in Cambodia, despite worries about poor working conditions in the country.

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